Travel Tips

The Elders

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a very special and exclusive tasting at the Roman headquarters for AIS at the Hotel Cavalieri on Monte Mario. I signed up last minute so I could join sommeliers-in-training and local food and wine guides Gina Tringali and Irene de Vette for a vertical tasting of Borgogno, a cantina that has been making very special Barolo since 1761. Our tasting went back to 1961, and I felt each year we went back in time the wines became stronger and more expressive. Vertical tastings like these are a great opportunity to get to know a particular cantina, but also give individuals the oppurtunity to taste back vintages that we might not otherwise have the opportunity to taste.

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The lovely Gina Tringali and Irene de Vette

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Me with Andrea Farinetti-He is so cute!

After a brief introduction by Franco Ricci, the young and talented Andrea Farinetti took the microphone and gave us a great explanation of the slow process of wine making at Borgogno.  I couldn’t help but giggle.  He looked about 12 and I was sure he had braces on.  In my ageist attitude I was saying to myself, “What can this little chump possibly have to say of interest?”  A lot, it turns out.  We learned that Borgogno wines, with Andrea at the head, are Slow Wines.  Though from 1996-2011 they used more conventional methods in wine making, such as selected yeasts, Andrea has made the cantina take a turn for the better.  Starting with the 2012 vintage, they started to use only ambient yeast, they use concrete barrels, they are looking back to traditional Barolo wine making, and that is something I can get behind.  Andrea is a truly exceptional man, and I am happy there are young people out there in the world of wine who are passionate about tradition, sustainability, and want to care for their inheritance in a careful manner.

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BorgognoBaroloRiserva 1982DOCG

Once Andrea was done, the mic(s) were handed over to master sommeliers Armando Castagno and Paolo Lauciani.  I have a wine crush on Paolo Lauciani.  The man is sexy, and has the most incredible and demure voice.  Plus, he is a tasting genius.  That man can could decipher that type of herbs a cow ate just by smelling the cow’s manure.  Virtuoso!
I won’t make this post a long post on my tasting notes, but I would like to remark on the two wines of the evening that were my personal favorites, the 1982 and the 1961.  We tasted wines from 1996, 1988, 1982, 1978, 1967 and 1961.  Despite being up to 51 years old, all of these wines had beautiful orange garnet hues and remained fresh and had well integrated tannins.

Musky, chocolate, something green, forest aromas, mature red fruits, complex sweet aromas and spices like nutmeg, citrus, smokiness, pink roses, tobacco, chestnuts, cacao, candied fruits, over all a complex array of aromas ranging from fruits to spices.  Its taste was ethereal.  Dry and dynamic, bursting with flavor, still very fresh but mature, very well balanced, bitter citrus, long and smooth silky tannins, well integrated tannins, never ending fruity finish with a touch of salinity.  Remarkable smooth but robust tannins.  In the words of Paolo, “A Symphony.”

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Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1961DOCG

A lovely brick red.  Very evolved aromas of cherries and prunes, floral notes, salinity, tertiary aromas of menthol and balsamic notes, mint, camphor, juniper.  Very delicate, like a pinot noir.  No wood, fresh, honey aromas, almonds, dry red berries, something barnyard, like horse sweat (my favorite) It has surprisingly robust tannins, still very tactile and fresh, saline, warm and fruity.  Excellent evolution for a wine that is over 50 years old.  Wonderful.